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AReCO in the News

Source: The Chicago Tribune


Date: August 20, 2004

Copyright 2004, Chicago Tribune


Flight caps won't end delays

FAA official cites domino effect: `That's air travel'


Even when new flight caps take effect in November, passengers traveling through O'Hare International Airport still could encounter delays, especially during the evening hours, a federal aviation official said Thursday.

Although the agreement touted a 20 percent reduction in delay minutes, federal officials acknowledged that the new limits of 88 arrivals per hour during peak times won't fix a long-standing issue in aviation: problems that occur earlier in the day can have a domino effect on afternoon and evening schedules.

"There is a time-of-day factor," FAA spokesman William Shumann said. "If you show up at 6, 7 or 8 p.m., you are going to run a greater chance of being delayed than if you show up at 10 or 11 in the morning."

"That's air travel."

Meanwhile, others who regularly monitor O'Hare issues raised questions about the new temporary agreement between the airlines and federal regulators.

U.S. Rep. Jesse Jackson Jr. (D-Ill.), who supports building a third airport in the south suburbs to ease congestion at O'Hare, said the caps "will cost Chicago millions of dollars a day for every 747 that doesn't land, every 737 and 757 aircraft that has to go to another airport."

And Jack Saporito, executive director of the Alliance of Residents Concerning O'Hare, a watchdog group that opposes expanding O'Hare, questioned whether the agreement would create more noise at night.

Such reactions came one day after federal transportation officials announced a November through April 30 agreement to limit arrivals to 88 an hour at O'Hare between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

The pact marks the latest effort by the FAA to try to reduce delays at O'Hare, which ranks last in the nation in on-time arrivals and departures and has caused regular travelers, like Charles Horn of Deerfield, to miss many events with his family, including dinners and tucking in his children.

"Bottom line, do not plan anything on the day of your return flight to Chicago if it involves flying home between the hours of 4 p.m. and 8 p.m.," said Horn, who travels about 125,000 miles a year for his job as a corporate and investment banking relationship manager.

Whether travelers will notice any major difference remains to be seen. The FAA contends the restrictions will reduce the number of passengers delayed. So if 20 out of 100 people were behind schedule without the flight caps, the restrictions would reduce that number to 16 people, Shumann explained.

In addition, the number of delays over two hours will drop by 34 percent, from a daily average of 85 this month to 56 come November, federal officials said.

Still, the new plan does not address the domino effect of problems, such as weather, that can crop up. Delays caused by weather can ripple through the system, making it more likely for a traveler to encounter a delayed arrival or departure later in the day, Shumann said.

Those same issues caused Saporito to question a provision in the agreement that raises the limit to 98 arrivals per hour from 8 to 9 p.m., the last busy hour of the day. Saporito said backups could push more flights to arrive after 10 p.m. when a fly-quiet program takes effect.

"Obviously, they will start bleeding over into the quiet hours, so we have a problem with that," he said.

Others noted that 99 flights currently arrive during that time and so few flights come in after 9 p.m.--currently there are about 26 arrivals--that any spillover could be handled quickly.

Even then, there are measures in place to mitigate noise, such as choosing runways that have less impact, said Brian Gilligan, executive director of the O'Hare Noise Compatibility Commission.

Under the new agreement, American and United Airlines have volunteered to cut or move a total of 37 arrivals out of the hectic noon to 8 p.m. period. Airline officials said it would be several weeks before they know which flights will be affected.